ONLINE: James Baldwin’s Creative Process: Theorizing the 1941 Manuscript of “Allez le dire sur la montagne” – Isthmus

Press release:

Jacqueline Goldsby is the keynote speaker for the 2021-22 Great World Texts in Wisconsin student conference, taking place Monday, April 4, 2022. This year, high school teachers and students across the state will read and engage with James Weldon Johnson’s 1912 novel The autobiography of an ex-man of color. As part of the program, Goldsby will give this special Humanities Without Boundaries virtual lecture, which is free and open to the public. This event is presented in partnership with the Wisconsin Book Festival.

This is a virtual event; please register in advance here.

Biographers and critics have long accepted James Baldwin’s account of how he ended the writing block that hampered his first novel, Go say it on the mountain (1953). In the all-white village of Leukerbad, Switzerland, Baldwin recounted, and critics agree, the elusive core of the novel came into Baldwin’s grasp as he listened to Bessie’s blues singing. Smith.

In her lecture, Professor Goldsby explores beyond this critical consensus, to chart a multi-medium field of influence on Baldwin’s rightly lauded masterpiece. Drawing on Baldwin’s “Creative Process” (an important and less-studied 1962 essay), as well as the draft of Baldwin’s little-studied 1941 novel, Goldsby argues that Baldwin’s immersion in the visual arts during the 1930s and 1940 – film, photography, painting and printmaking – proved essential to his revisions of “Crying Holy” into the work we now know as Go say it on the mountain. The formal innovations that distinguish the published text – the young John Grimes’ internalized struggle with his faith and his sexuality; the dilatory scope of the novel; and engaging the reader in the social world of the text – derives from Baldwin’s engagements with these visual arts as well as blues music. Theorize Go say it on the mountain as a cross-media text, Goldsby challenges the origin story that scholars and critics have used to canonize Baldwin’s first novel.

Jacqueline Goldsby is the Thomas E. Donnelly Professor of African American Studies and English at Yale University, where she also currently chairs the Department of African American Studies. She is the author of the prize A Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature (University of Chicago Press, 2006), publisher of The autobiography of an ex-man of color (WW Norton & Co., 2015), and author of other articles on 20th-century African-American literature and book history. She founded and directed “Mapping the Stacks: A Guide to Black Chicago’s Hidden Archives” and co-directs “The Black Bibliography Project” with Meredith L. McGill. She is currently working on Writing from Low Frequencies: African-American Literature and Its Mid-Century Moment and Doing a New Thing: The Art and Life of James Baldwin.

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